2011 brought with it a pile of fantastic games (a lot of which I’ve still yet to play). Unfortunately, 2012 will do the exact same thing, meaning that my backlog is guaranteed to explode. However, like last year, there are a handful of titles that I will some specific time to play. So, in no particular order, here are my most anticipated titles for 2012 so far.
BioShock Infinite (PC – Irrational Games)
There is nothing I don’t like about BioShock Infinite so far. The original BioShock games are two of my favourite games of all time (despite their flaws), and Infinite looks set to push beyond what Irrational achieved in the earlier titles. The dystopic, steampunk powered world is perfectly realised and swimming in intricate detail. What has really grabbed my attention, however, is Elizabeth. Irrational seem determined to create a supporting character beyond anything seen before, one that evokes a deep, emotional resonance in the way she interacts with the world and with the player. From what I’ve seen of her so far, she has the potential to eclipse Alyx from the Half-Life 2 series as one of the most well-written and developed characters in video game history.
The thing that really hooked me about Gunpoint was one simple component. In this game, you play as a spy who performs various tasks, such as hacking computers, changing circuits, and so on. To do this, you enter buildings, but to exit the building, you absolutely MUST dive through a window (leading you to land on your face). I cracked up the first time I saw a video of this game: the animation was so blunt and perfectly timed, it added an incredible amount of charm and character to what already was an interesting game. Turns out you don’t need $150 million to create such an experience.
Gunpoint is an indie, currently PC game that’ll (hopefully) be released in May.
Gravity Rush (PS Vita – SCE Japan Studio)
The PS Vita hasn’t launched in Australia yet, but it’s confirmed that this unique launch title will make it here. During the original PS Vita unveil announcement, Gravity Rush (or Gravity Daze in Japan) looked to be one of the more unique titles being brought to the hardware. Aesthetically, it feels like a mixture of the films of Studio Ghibli and Prince of Persia 2008 (a good thing), while the gameplay features the manipulation of the world’s gravity in order to climb walls and perform large jumps. In a way, the gravity altering aspects of the game feel somewhat similar to the indie title And Yet It Moves.
Should more games as interesting as Gravity Rush head over to the PS Vita, it’ll be an instant purchase for me.
Luigi’s Mansion 2 (Nintendo 3DS – Next Level Games)
When the GameCube launched in 2001, critics were puzzled that Nintendo had decided to forgo launching with a strong Mario title (a’la the Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64) and instead gave responsibility of showing off the new consoles to Mario’s sibling, Luigi. For what it’s worth, Luigi’s Mansion was a fantastic title, that did what Nintendo does best with its games: demonstrating how the hardware and the games perfectly match up. With the 3DS starting to pick up pace after a lacklustre launch, Nintendo need to start hammering in some well-respected franchises, and bringing back Luigi’s Mansion with a brand new title is a fantastic start.
Paper Mario (Nintendo 3DS – Intelligent Systems)
Nintendo’s Mario games are, at least aesthetically, looking a bit tired. While Super Mario 3D Land was a fun game, it felt a little flat and uninspiring in general: the visual design feels a bit "paint by numbers" to me; the most obvious way to bring the 16-bit style into a 3D setting. It’d be fantastic if a traditional Mario game came along that took some risks with its design (perhaps, in a similar fashion to the contrast between the original Rayman games and Rayman Origins). Paper Mario seems to be as close as it gets to breaking the mold of design, but it also brings with it a simple, but wonderfully charming RPG with it as well. Paper Mario has always been an excellent offshoot of the Mario series, and the 3DS seems to be a natural fit for its paper cut-out graphics.
Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney (Nintendo 3DS – Level-5)
I’m fairly certain that m’colleague has this game at the top of his most wanted. It has been far too long since Phoenix Wright has graced our screens, and this collaboration with Level-5’s Professor Layton looks, quite simply, awesome.
Skullgirls (PlayStation 3 – Autumn Games)
I am not one to play fighting games, but the design and animation of Skullgirls has me utterly hooked. The fluidity of movement, and the sheer amount of personality in each of the characters is an absolute delight, harking back to the Disney games of the 16-bit era.
Which are your most anticipated titles for this year? Well, let’s look at some of the big hitters of this year: Mass Effect 3, Max Payne 3, Borderlands 2, Final Fantasy XIII-2, BioShock Infinite, Darksiders II, Halo 4, Prey 2, Diablo III, Dota 2, Far Cry 3, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Paper Mario, Prototype 2, Resident Evil 6… Phew, that’s a long list – and that’s a very small subset of the big releases, there are loads more!
I’m definitely looking forward to many of those listed above, but so is the rest of the gaming world. As a fan of several more obscure series that have titles coming out this year, I must promote those ones instead. So, first up, we have the most amazing character match-up to ever come out of The Land of the Rising Sun: Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney!
Not much has been announced about this game. We know that it’s a crossover game of two of the best DS game characters ever created – that is, Phoenix Wright and Professor Hershel Layton. We also know that the gameplay of both of these characters’ games are also combined to form some sort of…well, awesomeness. We know that it’s a collaboration effort between Level-5 and Capcom, and the lead designer is the great Shu Takumi of Ace Attorney fame. Seriously, what more do you need to know!?
Anyway, it’s pretty clear that I’m a gushing fan of both of these series. When I first heard of the Ace Attorney/Professor Layton game, I was (understandably) excited (even more excited than when Golden Sun: Dark Dawn was announced at Nintendo’s E3 keynote in 2010). While I do think that this game will be translated into English due to the popularity of Professor Layton in the west, I don’t really expect it to be released in our region this year.
But it’s still on my list of anticipated games – the Japanese release in this case. While region locking and language barriers prevent us from enjoying the game this year, there’s still one thing everybody can enjoy: the soundtrack! As a big fan of game music in general, Ace Attorney and Layton games have some of the best soundtracks out there. I expect this crossover game to be no different. (We plan to talk more about game music in a later post.)
Speaking of music, let’s move onto the second game I want to discuss, and this time it is definitely getting a release this year: Rhythm Heaven Fever, follow up to the oh-so-addictive DS game, Rhythm Heaven. These games are very simple in concept: a series of rhythm-based mini-games, each with very simple graphics and equally simple gameplay mechanics.
What you don’t get from the Wikipedia article is the level of addictiveness – the desire to get the timing perfect to nail that one level that’s been bugging you. The difficulty curve in the first game is a little steep, but the satisfaction of achieving that perfect rating in a level is simply amazing. It also helps that the music is always great!
Anyway, I’m starting to froth at the mouth due to my fanboy-ish ravings. Whatever your taste of games is, this year looks to be a wild ride. Each year in games keeps getting better and better – it’s great to see our favourite medium growing to new heights every year. Now the only problem is deciding which ones to buy!